Bookseller Sentenced to 15 Months for Theft
The brothers were honored by the National Archives with certificates and facsimiles of some of the stolen items, though their greatest reward must be in knowing they helped save some of the nation's historical records.
McTague was charged with the theft on March 15, which is the final date feedback appears on his eBay account. The Denning House website is no longer available either. He admitted to the theft and has expressed remorse. Fortunately, all but two of the items have been recovered, though many were sold. The most notable among them included an order from the War Department announcing the death of President Lincoln to soldiers in the field, and a letter from Confederate General "Jeb" Stuart.
Denning McTague is a case history for a changing world. Booksellers are all too familiar with the changes wrought to their field by rapidly moving technology. His other fields, library science and history, do not carry the degree of respect they did for an earlier generation. In another article this month, we look at declining use of libraries and the implications for librarians. His attorney described McTeague as a man with a failing business, an inability to find a good job despite his extensive educational background, and mounds of debt. Despite building qualifications that probably would have guaranteed an earlier generation financial success, today it brings little reward. One negative pointed towards him was a comment he made about being angry he was unpaid for his internship. Of course he chose to volunteer, yet it is not hard to imagine his resenting the fact that the only way he could use his intellectual skills was to give them away. If only he could sell used cars or lobby congressmen, he wouldn't have had to give his skills away for nothing.
Nevertheless, sad as his predicament is, you can't steal things, and especially one-of-a-kind national treasures. I don't believe it is contradictory to feel a certain sympathy for McTague while still believing he needs to do his time. We just can't open the doors to stealing as a redress for changing societal priorities. Many working people, such as those who labored in America's automobile plants, have faced similar crises as circumstances changed. No one deserves this, especially someone who works hard to train for some of the most respected fields of their time. But times change. Respect, as measured by dollars, has changed. There is a commentary on our society here, but I will let you choose your own. I do know we cannot rollback time. Nor can McTague rollback his. He must serve it, plus pay a $3,000 fine.